Podcasts

Once Upon a Time at Bennington College

Lili Anolik weaves decades-old hot gossip into an insightful generational portrait of how media upheaval enabled fresh ways of telling stories.

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In October, Donna Tartt's lawyer sent a threatening letter to the creator of the podcast Once Upon a Time at Bennington College, perversely stimulating interest in the 14-part series. What could the author of the scandalously confessional novel The Secret History have left to hide about her undergraduate career?

Lili Anolik has indeed gotten the goods about not just Tartt but two of her 1986 classmates: Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than ZeroAmerican Psycho) and Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn). She weaves decades-old hot gossip into an insightful generational portrait of how upheaval in media and academia enabled fresh ways of telling stories.

Anolik's story began life as an assignment for Esquire, but podcast listeners hear the project evolve in real time—early interviews are marred with café noise and interruptions, later tapes are polished—making the podcast itself a chronicle of our own chaotic media moment and an example of the sprawling, compelling storytelling that is newly possible.

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  2. A podcast covering decades old gossip? Seems like time poorly spent. Learn a new skill. Fix something broken. Learn another language. Build a ghost gun. Exercise.

  3. I never listen to podcasts because generally I'm not interested in but about 10% of the content. I'd really prefer that podcasts be transcribed so I can skip the stuff I don't care about.

    1. I am not a huge podcast fan either. I prefer the written word over the spoken word.

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  4. And we should care why?

  5. If this is of interest, I’d suggest check out Bret Easton Ellis’s podcast, which recently reposted his interview with Lili Anolik. It primarily focuses on Joan Didion and Eve Babitz, and I—a complete internet stranger—highly recommend it.

  6. For ppl desiring a transcript, there’s a link to the Esquire article at Lili Anolik’s website: http://www.lilianolik.com/once-upon-a-time-at-bennington-college

    However, I’m enjoying the podcast very much and was not aware of it until Reason drew it to my attention. Thanks, Reason!

    And for those who (like me) enjoy audio because one CAN listen while engaged in chores, crafts, exercise, etc., I highly recommend the audio version of The Secret History, especially if it’s been snowing in your neck of the woods

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